The 2009 NFL season is just around the corner now. We’re four games away from the first regular season game – but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have some football to look at this month. The Titans and Bill got the preseason started and in a pleasing way I might add, but the Dallas Cowboys start this Thursday night against Oakland, in Oakland.
Millions are watching to see what the Cowboys are going to do this season. Not only because Terrell Owens was cut, not only because of how badly they lost to the Eagles in the 2008 regular season finale, and not only because our injury prone team is seeming just that, injury prone – and it’s still before their first preseason game.
Training camp injuries for us are like pads and helmets – don’t step on the field without ’em. That’s how it’s been going since Felix Jones first went down last year, and he wasn’t even the first injury of the year. Terence Newman was the first last year, and he was either first or a damn close second this year too, with Mike Jenkins possibly edging him out on that one. Their injuries aren’t supposed to be serious, but our DB core will be missing both of its starting corners for this weeks game and why shouldn’t they sit out? After last year, I don’t think there is a man in this organization that doesn’t think long and hard about playing a hurt guy.
But there’s still so much more to it – the first preseason game – so I’ve got my fellow fans here to help me break it all down for you, one unit at a time. First up?
Finally the time has come for the 2009-10 NFL season to begin for the Dallas Cowboys. Thursday night in Oakland the Cowboys will have their first of four PreSeason games.
This is the most meaningless game of the four simply because the starters will only play the first two series, from then on we will get the largest look at the rest of the team.
Wade Phillips starts his campaign as the Defensive Coordinator and we can expect to see a fairly extensive blitz package. So far in training camp Wade has blitzed the Cowboys Offense with every opportunity. The defensive question marks coming into the season are the same things we saw the ‘Boys struggle with last year.
- Interior Run Defense
- Ability to Force Turnovers
While this is a meaningless game, here are a few things to keep a watchful eye on.
- The play of the Defensive line (Are they able to hold up at the point of attack?)
- The play of Junior Siavii (Can he play well enough to spell J Ratt?)
- T New and Mike Jenkins will not play so keep an eye on Scandrick and the rest
- The Rookie Linebackers (Can the defense still function at a high level with them in the game?)
- With all the blitzing going on have the Cowboys upgraded their depth at the Safety positions?
The Oakland Raiders, like the Cowboys, have a wealth of talent in the backfield, so they should allow the Coaching staff to get a good look at the defensive front.
The Raiders also have a ton of speed in their receivers, add that to the blitz equation and we should be able to get a decent idea on the strength – or lack there of – in the secondary. Here is my list of players to keep an eye on.
- Michael Hamlin (This guy has been around the ball in every practice but can he do it in a game?)
- Mike Mickens (Missed the OTA’s and has been struggling so far in camp. His time with the Cowboys may depend on his performance in this game.)
- Bobby Carpenter (Once again having a very solid Training Camp, but can he finally carry that over into an actual game?)
- Courtney Brown and Alan Ball (Can they impress enough to impede the progress of the rookies? Or will they struggle and open the door for Mickens?)
I really hate the preseason! Forces me to look solely at the moving parts instead of the sum of those parts! Enjoy the game!
Defensive analysis provided by Bags030404
Whats the Scoop?
The Dallas Cowboys will head to Oakland for a preseason battle. The Cowboys offense will come showing a little bit of a new flare. The implementation of new formations and personnel will make the Cowboys a bit of a different team, but surely still one of the most talented teams in the league.
What to expect?
Expect… Tony Romo to get a few good series’ in. He will finally get the opportunity to display his offseason work that has been heavily criticized. Directly connected to the progression and development of Tony Romo will be this years receiver corp. A young group that will feature Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton, with Sam Hurd and Miles Austin providing solid talent and depth. You should expect to see more of Hurd and Austin thAn anything else.
The most important thing that you should expect is a lot of risky play calling that will take advantage of the exhibition game. Expect Jason Garrett to experiment with his running backs in two back sets and also moving them into receiver slots. This game will provide the Cowboys a lot of perspective as to what will work and what won’t. Keep an eye on the possibility of the Razorback (Wildcat) formation.
What to look for?
First team offense:
Once again look for consistency in Tony Romo and the First team offense. This is crucial to understanding where the Cowboys will land this season. Look for timing, pass release, and snaps from center. Your eyes should be peeled for limited penalties from the O-line and maximum protection. From the tight ends you want to see that both Witten and Bennett are involved in the game together, look for multiple tight end formations or formations that have tight ends spread out or in the fullback position.
The possibility of new formation alignment is the most intriguing. With so many versatile players you’ll see everyone lined up everywhere. Felix Jones can play receiver, Barber can play fullback, Bennett and Witten can play receiver or fullback, and Crayton and Austin can move into the slot to perform, as well as Hurd playing in the #2 slot. Stanback and Crayton can play Razorback quarterback, and Felix Jones will see a lot of different situations.
Second and Third team offense:
Not too much that is going to matter a whole lot. Kitna will get some play but he’s a proven veteran. Expect and anticipate a strong showing from McGee. He’s been slow so far in camp, having trouble and getting shaken in the pocket. He’ll need to find his confidence and a preseason game can really aid that.
The most important battle to keep an eye on will be receiver. The Cowboys are expected to only keep 5 and 4 spots are locked up. Stanback has come on strong but Manuel Johnson, Holley-wood, and Kevin Ogletree have all impressed a bit in camp. As they’ll all get the second half to show what they can do, expect someone to begin to break away.
A lot will be tested and proven in this game against Oakland. Hopefully our First team will get some chemistry going and it’ll provide some calmness to settle over a very criticized unit. A lot of young talent sits in our system and we’ll get to see some of it Thursday night!
Offensive analysis provided by Bryan Martin
During this year’s draft, Special Team’s was a focus, drafting 9 players out of 12 with their ability to contribute to this side of the ball in mind. Granted, there may be a future in the starting line up for many of these players, but this year their roster spot will likely be earned flying down the field on kick off and punt coverage and throwing blocks where needed on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Whereas on Offense and Defense, where we will likely only see the starters for the first few series, throughout the game when the Special Team’s take the field, what you see in Preseason will be very close to what you get in the Regular season, when it comes to the skill positions: Mat McBriar will be the punter, Nick Folk, will likely be handling the extra points and Field Goals and handling the kick off duties will likely be the freak of nature phenomenon David Buehler (pronounced Beeler, for those not already in the know). Outside of those positions, though, are the plethora of bubble-boy’s.
The Special Teams portion of Thursday night’s game will grant us the truest picture of how we did in the Draft, since it’s too early to expect these rookies to perform within a new defense and offense at the top of their potential. For instance, while many people have thought that some of these rookies are slower than their combine’s/pro day’s suggested, the veterans have contended that their problem is not physical speed, but mental speed (e.g. their reaction time). The mental side of offense and defense comes with experience. On Special Team’s, though, their physical speed should be evident.
What to look for:
- Touchbacks. Can Buehler routinely kick it into the endzone in game situations?
- How will coverage perform, particularly with the recent change in the rules, which prevents the kick return team from forming a wedge of 3 or more players?
- Has Matt McBriar returned to form after suffering a season ending injury last year to his kicking foot?
- Is Nick Folk still clutch?
- Lastly, and most importantly in my mind, what rookie and/or perennial benchwarmer embraces Special Team’s ala Keith Davis and emerges as the new leader. Personally, with as many unit’s as he will likely be featured on, I’d like to see Buehler assume this role, though it may be too soon in his career.
Special teams analysis provided by Jonathan